You’ve noticed a few changes when visiting Mom. Often, you may spot little things over time. Acting on them can make a huge difference for your loved one’s health and welfare. These signs indicate Mom could use a little help...help that could prevent a crisis. Help that could keep her out of a nursing home. If Mom wants to stay in the comfort of her own home, these are the signs that a home caregiver could help her do so.
Nine Signs Mom Needs a Home Caregiver:
1. Her diet consists of frozen meals, canned goods and junk food.
The fridge and pantry are two of the first places to look for clues. If Mom’s meals now consist of snacks or microwavable meals, she’s likely having trouble with meal prep. This is a sign she may need help with things like meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. It’s also an indication she may be lonely or depressed. And, it’s a bad sign for her health.
For seniors who live alone, this pattern is quite common. Meals tend to be a social activity. Living alone, we may feel less inclined to prepare a nice meal. Mom may take to grabbing a bowl of cereal in front of the TV.
Because there are many steps to preparing a fresh, varied diet, it’s often one of the first things to slip. The contents of the fridge might reveal deeper issues, like memory problems or worries about driving (to the store) too.
There’s no reason any senior living at home can’t have delicious, nutritious food. Just take a look at our article “Three Delicious Ways to Help with Better Nutrition” for simple solutions. A home caregiver can plan meals, shop, prep meals in advance, cook and provide mealtime companionship and much more.
2. Mom’s housekeeping doesn’t pass the white glove test anymore. Or, perhaps it’s well beyond that into hoarding territory.
This is all relative, but you know your Mom’s housekeeping standards. The home may still seem perfectly fine to you or outsiders. But, take note if Mom no longer does tasks she once felt mandatory. Are you seeing dusty furniture? Unmade beds? Rooms closed off and unused because she doesn’t want to clean or has piled things up there? Spoiled food in the fridge?
The ideal time to take note is when the signs are subtle. At this point, you can hire a caregiver even for just a few hours/week to help with the difficult tasks. A tidy home is not only healthy (for falls/fire/accident prevention and sanitation) but a happier environment.
We’ve seen countless seniors hurt themselves (often severely) cleaning gutters, clearing tree branches, doing pool upkeep and other household tasks. If you’re having a hard time convincing Mom or Dad to hire someone, schedule a time to chat with one of our team. We have a lot of experience in this area.
And, unfortunately, hoarding is another common reason we get calls. This might range from clutter simply getting out of hand due to various difficulties, all the way to a significant hoarding disorder. Hoarding is more common among older adults and becomes worse with age. Our team has dealt with many hoarding cases and household messes of all types. You can engage our expert care managers to help you with the approach and resources.
3. Mom’s gone from Jackie Kennedy to Sloppy Sally.
Okay, it may not be this extreme. But, you might notice changes in Mom’s appearance and personal upkeep. Perhaps Mom is wearing the same outfit each time you see her. Some families start to notice an odor or can tell Mom isn’t washing her hair anymore. Are you surprised by what Mom’s wearing to church? Or, if it’s Dad, perhaps you see him with 5 o’clock shadow for the first time ever?
All of this points to various difficulties. Laundry and ironing require certain strength and stamina. Personal hygiene might suffer because of the difficulty of the tasks, or memory problems or depression.
Hygiene and personal care can be a sensitive subject. It’s also awkward for most adult children to help their parents with bathing, dressing, and the like. A well-trained home caregiver knows the approach and technique to turn this from awkward to pampering. Just imagine how much better Mom will feel. The pride of feeling fresh and looking nice makes a world of difference for mental and physical health.
4. She struggles to get up from the chair or out of the car.
Transferring from a chair or in and out of the car takes strength, balance and coordination. If you’ve ever been dizzy or weak from illness, you know how hard it can be. Getting out of the bathtub is another issue altogether!
If it takes Mom a big push or several tries to get up, it’s a crisis waiting to happen. Transfers are a common point of falls. Just such a crisis happened to my grandmother. She ended up stuck in her tub for almost 24 hours. Grandma survived by drinking water from the faucet and pulling a towel over herself to keep warm. We felt awful when we found her after repeated phone calls. This could have been avoided. She needed an emergency response system at the very least. But, she really needed help with daily care. Grandma had to go to a nursing home temporarily. But, fortunately, she was able to recover and go home with a caregiver later. Don’t let this happen to your Mom. Take heed of the signs.
5. You notice unexplained bruises or Mom admits to ”having a little slip”.
Bruising and minor injuries can be (and usually are) precursors to major injuries. They indicate balance problems, or difficulty safely navigating the home. Often, what you see is only part of the story. If Mom admits to a “little slip” or bumping her head, it’s probably not the only time.
If you notice these signs:
- Do a quick self-review of the home. Click Here for a room-by-room checklist.
- Get a comprehensive in-home evaluation. This can be used to determine needed resources like physical therapy, in-home fitness services, caregiver assistance, home modifications and more. Many times, a couple minor changes will prevent your worst fears from coming true.
6. Mom’s personality has changed. She’s agitated, forgetful or fatigued. Mom complains of sleep issues and pain.
What do all these signs have in common? They might indicate Mom is depressed. Elders often have less identifiable symptoms of depression. They don’t tend to acknowledge (or even understand) what they’re feeling. It often shows up in physical symptoms, foggy thinking, or disinterest.
Combatting Depression in the Elderly (stats, signs, prevention and support)
A home caregiver can help with reducing social isolation, encouraging activity, providing healthy nutritional support, keeping medications and routines on track and more.
7. Mom becomes an island to herself.
Each of us varies in our level of outgoingness and activity. But, pay attention if Mom’s withdrawing from favorite activities or becoming extremely inactive. Loneliness and isolation have been linked to cognitive decline, depression, higher blood pressure, and poor overall physical and mental health. They’re major predictors of nursing home placement.
Additionally, if Mom no longer goes out with friends or does much at all, there might be more going on than meets the eye. Perhaps she’s afraid of falling (which only leads to more problems if unaddressed). Or, maybe she’s had some incidents driving. Mom could be embarrassed by urinary incontinence or forgetfulness.
A big change in activity patterns shouldn’t be glossed over. A caregiver can help with the underlying problems. And, he/she can encourage and support activities...plus provide companionship.
8. She’s forgetting words, missing appointments, repeating herself, etc.
Cognitive issues can be obvious or subtle. Many aging parents cover up forgetfulness. You might learn Mom’s forgotten other appointments when you go to one with her. Often, spending extended time together and conversing helps you spot changes. (A home caregiver can also be your "eyes and ears" when visiting regularly.)
Signs show up in speech and “executive function” (the interplay of mental processes that helps us get things done). Ever notice Mom can’t think of a common word? Or, maybe she contributes very little to the conversation anymore. As mentioned above, it’s also a common reason she withdraws from activities, limits driving or can’t manage personal and home care. If you’re unsure if what you’re seeing is normal aging or something else, contact our care managers about an evaluation.
9. Mom’s pills take up the whole kitchen counter.
An elderly person takes, on average, four or five prescription drugs and two over-the-counter medications at any given time. Unfortunately, this leads to a number of problems. First, many elders make medication errors or have difficulty managing their regime. Second, many are prescribed inappropriate drugs or suffer from interactions. The incidence of drug interactions rises from 6% when taking two medications to as high as 50% when taking five a day.
For this reason, medication assistance is one of the most valuable services a home caregiver can provide.
Additionally, multiple medications usually indicate Mom is managing various conditions and seeing different doctors. She may need a care manager advocate if you cannot attend all appointments. And, even if you could, you may benefit from a professional’s help.
Have you noticed Mom can’t explain her conditions or treatments? Does she say “Nothing new.” or “Everything’s fine.” when you ask what happened at the doctor? Get peace of mind with care coordination to ensure Mom’s getting what she needs and wants.